Jerusalem (Sep. 27)
A British military court today sentenced Leib Sirkin and Abraham Rachlin to terms of ten and seven years imprisonment, respectively on charges of illegally securing arms stolen from military stores.
The verdict, which was immediately followed by the sentencing of the two defendants, was issued this morning after a six-week trial which attracted worldwide attention, since the issues involved transcended the guilt or innocence of the two accused.
Defense attorneys Philip Joseph and Asher Levitsky announced that they would appeal the decision to the General Officer Commanding British forces in the Middle East and would carry the case to the King, if necessary. Dr. Joseph, who was Sirkin’s attorney, stated that “Sirkin came here for justice, not mercy. He still considers himself innocent and will not refrain from appealing to the GOC and, if that fails, to the King.”
Before delivering the court’s verdict, the president of the tribunal, Major Russel Lawrence, made the following statement; “This trial has proved the existence of a large, embracing conspiracy to obtain arms and ammunition from His Majesty’s forces. The offenses of which both accused are charged, are a result of this conspiracy which is against the security of the country’s inhabitants as well as a hindrance to the war effort. No decent man should allow arms brought by sea at risk of mens’ lives to be stolen. The organization behind the accused seemingly possesses vast sums of money and a great knowledge of military matters and organization.”
TRIAL MARKED BY ACCUSATIONS AGAINST JEWISH INSTITUTIONS
The trial of the Jewish taxi-driver, Rachlin, and the Jewish trade-union official, Sirkin, and also that of Stoner and Harris, the two soldiers from whom they were accused of purchasing the arms, became a forum from which the military prosecutors voiced thinly-veiled accusations against leading Jewish institutions in Palestine, not excluding the Jewish Agency, implying that they were directly involved in a gigantic conspiracy to smuggle arms to secret Jewish defense groups.
Defense attorneys, on the other hand, made counter-charges against the Palestine police, accusing them of anti-Semitic tendencies and of “framing” the case against Rachlin and Sirkin. The defense held that the prosecution had failed to prove possession of the arms in question – 300 rifles and 105,000 rounds of ammunition – by either of the defendants and that its witnesses had on several occasions contradicted themselves and each other.
Frequent references were made during the proceedings to the Haganah and the Machneh, Jewish self-defense groups, which the prosecutor, Major Baxter, charged were part of a “sinister organization extending throughout the Middle East and especially in Palestine.” He implied that the stolen arms had been secured for use by these groups. Jewish leaders here ridiculed the prosecution’s allegations and termed the trial a “frame-up.”